The Power of Storytelling
by Ralph Winter, Producer (Captive, X-Men)
Storytelling—it’s all around us. It’s in a courtroom, it’s in politics, it’s in our business, it’s in religion. It’s history. It’s what we’ve done around the campfires in teaching younger generations about life through stories. It’s cultural. It’s what we do at dinner when we have friends come over. It’s in movies and TV and social media. It’s in Instagram. The power and persuasiveness is front and center, and the best story wins.
At Sundance in January there was a fantastic film that will dominate the Oscars this next year. It’s called Birth of a Nation, the story of Nat Turner who led the slave rebellion of 1831. There were 1500 people in Eccles Theater standing and applauding and in tears at the end of this movie. And the director, Nate Parker, a strong Christian, stood up and told why he made the movie. He turned down an offer from Netflix for $20 million and took an offer of less money from Searchlight Pictures so he could stimulate dialogue about the content of the movie in community centers, churches, and theaters. It’s a pretty interesting, brave, and courageous choice in today’s market.
Sometimes the kind of things we do are not even on the faith community radar—but Mastermedia is there to support and understand what’s going on. I spend about 8-9 months a year on the road away from my family, and it’s people who pray for me and support me who keep me going. People like Buster [Holmes] and other friends, like my wife and my church community . . . people who hold me up while I’m doing this at a great distance, trying to make movies that have significance.
That’s one of the reasons to encourage and care for the filmmakers among us who are really “prophets” of the culture. In his book, Culture Care, my friend Makoto Fujimura says that believers who work in media walk in two different cultures—the secular and the faith community. They need encouragement, prayer, and people who understand what they’re going through as they prophetically try to show what the future is about.
In some ways, these filmmakers are like missionaries. They’re learning a new language and a new culture, and their values are different as they walk the border between two cultures. Let’s encourage our filmmakers as they’re doing that and being the prophets for this generation.